I bought 1000 (one thousand; that is not a typo!) paper doilies.

I am committed.  Haha!

Want to know what they look like?

oh yes, I bought a case of 1,000 doilies.  And I am so excited!


I somehow expected a bigger box, but really, they are quite compact.

oh yes, I bought a case of 1,000 doilies.  And I am so excited!

So here’s the story about these doilies:

As I started planning the “sketches” for the daily highlight pages in V’s December album (You can read about the overall plan for the album HERE. You can see all posts related to this album project HERE.), I realized I wanted an element to soften the crisp, hard edges of the patterned paper blocks I would be using.  I had a couple doilies in this style that I’d saved from a restaurant in my embellishments box, and so I pulled them out.  Yes, I’m one of those people who sees a pretty doily under my side dish bowl and whisks it into my purse before food spills on it!  Haha.  As I developed my sketch ideas, I decided that these doilies were a must–these exact ones– and there should be one on every page.  Since there are going to be over 30 daily highlight pages in the album (one for each day, plus a few bonus ones for V’s first days), that would have meant a lot of trips to the restaurant for more doilies, haha!

I did try and contact the restaurant to find out more information about their doily supplier, and they did reply, but not with specific enough information.  I looked in my local craft stores (in the baking sections) to see if there were any comparable styles of doilies, but nothing was quite as perfectly lacy as these.  I got online myself and searched around until I found 5″ Cambridge Lace paper doilies.  As I looked, I decided that it wasn’t going to be too ridiculous of an investment to actually just buy a case– it was more cost-effective this way, and of course, I’ll be able to use approximate 970 doilies on other projects!

The funniest part to me is that I keep finding myself trying to justify this purchase.  Husband doesn’t care about how I spend my craft/hobby money, as long as I’m happy!  But I’d find myself saying “…and I can use them on cards!”  and then a little later, “…I use them on layouts!”  Every time I pop up with one of these remarks, Husband just shakes his head and says, “That’s fine!  Enjoy your doilies!” and yet, I still feel the need to justify.  Haha!

~ ~ ~

Okay, so enough about the doilies for now.  What about the layouts for V’s December album?

I mentioned in my March goals recap that I was able to cut paper pieces for about 16 of my pages at a craft afternoon at church.  That was awesome!  I told myself that within the first hour of being there, I had to have chopped into my paper to start prepping the layouts.  No dilly-dallying, no waffling or being afraid to use the paper I’d purchased expressly for this project!

Originally, I thought that the layouts would be based on one sketch, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would be bored silly with 30+ layouts of essentially the same design, even if the papers were different.  Before the craft afternoon, I sat down and designed four main sketches (which then have four variations, based on photo orientation and vertical mirroring).


Once I got to church and began working, I chose measurements to approximate the sketches and started chopping.  I prepped four layouts at a time.  I took some (really crummy!!) photos with my (very old) iPhone to help me to remember what papers went where, in case they ended up getting mixed in my project box.  In the photos below, you can see that I varied the photo orientations and even had some of my pilfered doilies (this was before my thousand were even ordered!) and my 4×6 prints to help me visualize.

2014_03_08_layoutprogress-EditThis “batch-processing” is working so well!  I haven’t done anything (except order doilies!) since the church  craft day, because I’ve been prioritizing bridal shower preparations (see my April goals!), but I am so excited to continue with this project.  It’s another of my goals for April to finish these layouts– or at least take them a lot further along.

I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 to make at least one new recipe from our two newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2014.”

~ ~ ~

ATK Tangerine (made with orange) Beef

Recipe:  Tangerine Stir-Fried Beef with Onion and Snow Peas from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2013, (page 391)

  • when did we make this? Thursday, April 3, for supper
  • did we change anything? I used oranges instead of tangerines (substitution provided in the recipe), and I also substituted sugar snap peas for the snow peas, because I prefer them.
  • what did we like?  Everything about this dish is delicious.  The beef is tender, the sauce is super flavorful, and the peas are the perfect crunchy touch.  
  • what didn’t we like?  I cut my onions a bit too small, so they didn’t have as much presence as I hoped.  But that was my fault, and not the recipe’s!
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)?  Yes!!!  Even after the first bite, we were talking about how this recipe is definitely on our must-make-again (and even on a regular basis!) list.

I’m continuing our challenge from 2013 to make at least one new recipe from our two newer cookbooks each month.  There’s a category on the blog for these posts called “recipe review 2014.”

~ ~ ~

SK chocolate brioche pretzels

SK chocolate brioche pretzels

Recipe:  Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook (pages 17-19)

  • when did we make this? Monday, March 31, 2014, because I’m pregnant, I saw the recipe while flipping through the cookbook, and I had to have them.
  • did we change anything?  Most notably, I used sea salt on top rather than the coarse or pearl sugar called for in the recipe, mostly because I simply didn’t have coarse sugar, but also because I thought that the salty counterpoint would taste good (I like salty-sweet!).  I also halved the recipe.  It took a bit longer to bake my pretzels than the recipe’s suggested baking time, and they didn’t get nearly as browned as the photographs in the book, because I was afraid of over-baking.
  • what did we like?  These pretzels tasted exactly how I expected and wanted them to.  It was the perfect satisfaction to my craving.  They are not quite as sweet as “dessert” (they are, after all, found in the breakfast section of the book), but that was just fine by me. 
  • what didn’t we like?  Nothing– only that I didn’t start them earlier in the day so that I could have eaten them earlier in the day ;-)  (It’s a longer rise time than what I normally expect in a yeast dough.)
  • will we make it again (any changes in the future)? Yes!!


It’s been a blah couple of days for me, creatively.

I have a lot of projects on my plate, and I’m even really excited about them.  I think about then often.  But when naptime rolls around and I can really dig in, I am finding myself unable to make progress.  I start something, and I realize I’m missing something critical to completion (or even beginning!).  I start something else, only to discover that my inspiration has fled.  I think about starting another thing, and realize that I really owe someone an email, but I just don’t have the energy to write it.

Maybe it’s because I’m extra tired.  I’m in my third trimester!  Wow.  I only realized that the other day, and it does explain a lot.  (It took me 3 hours to clean my house the other day, when it usually only takes me an hour total, and while the house needed the cleaning, it was not that dirty!!).  The other night, when I could have been making progress on one project or another, I just laid on the couch, watched several episodes Wings, and had a snack.  It was mindless, it was restful, and it was great.  ;-)  I really needed that mental break!

There is also the idea of a creative ebb and flow (that has nothing to do with pregnancy!).  Sometimes I feel like doing one kind of project over another, and then a few days/weeks/months later, my passion is for something different.  If I can pinpoint what thing is floating my boat at the moment, I can usually jump back into the thick of crafting with renewed vigor.

I’m having trouble figuring out exactly what I want to be doing right now, though.  I also know that in 12 weeks or so, my crafty time is going to be severely limited (or nonexistent, at least for a while!).  So while I know that it is good to rest, I also want to be using my time wisely/efficiently.

I think my plan for the next little bit, until I can get my inspiration back, is going to be to break down my to-do list tasks/goals into even more sub-tasks so that I feel productive when I accomplish one of them.  I know that when I feel productive, it actually helps me to get those juices flowing again!  Hope this works!


*P.S. The photo has absolutely nothing to do with the text of this post.  I just have had too many photo-less posts recently.  I also think that snowdrops are so beautiful.  They’re starting to rival crocus as my favorite spring flower!

March was a crazy-busy month for our family!  But even in the midst of it all, I managed to do pretty well on my goals!

  • sew a doll for my daughter, with one dress and one “undersuit.” Possibly even some little diapers for the doll, too.  The doll is finished, and so is the undersuit and dress, aside from the little closure snaps (don’t have them and need to buy some!).  I haven’t made the diapers yet, so that’s been moved to April’s goals.  Look for a blog post about the doll coming soon!
  • start making plans for the bridal shower.  Not only did I put together a Pinterest board and decide on a color scheme with my mom, but I created a digital invitation and started making some of the decorations with my mom!  I made way more progress on this than I expected.  I’m planning to write the blog posts about this shower in April.
  • decide on a sketch for the “highlight layout” pages of V’s December album and start working on those layouts, if possible.  I ended up creating 4 sketches for the 31+ layouts for the album (I realized one sketch would get boring!).  At a craft day at my church, I was brave and dove right in to chop up the patterned papers to start making the layouts.  I have the pieces for 16 layouts prepared!  I’ll be writing a blog post about this soon, too– hopefully!
  • Exercise 2-3 times per week, at least.  My total “official” exercise time for March was essentially the same as in February (just under 5 hours).  Not as high as I’d like, but I’ll take it (especially considering I had a very sore knee for about a week).
  • Take care of the sprouts.  They’re doing well!  Here’s the update I wrote this month.
  • New recipes from ATK and SK: It was a tasty month :) We made fried chicken, buttermilk cole slaw, brownie roll-out cookies, and chocolate-chip brioche pretzles (post coming).  Yum ;-)
  • Unexpected accomplishments:

April is upon us!  I don’t have many weeks left before the baby comes, and we’re going to be converting my craft room into our little boy’s nursery soon.  But I’ll be crafting like a crazy woman until I have to put my stuff away!  Here are my goals for this month:

  • Throw an awesome bridal shower for my sister-in-law-to-be.
  • Make layouts for V’s December album.
  • Make doll-sized cloth diapers for my daughter’s doll.
  • Plan crib skirt, curtains, and a few decorations for my son’s nursery.
  • New recipes from ATK and SK, of course.
  • Take care of the sprouts.  This will probably involve transplanting them to larger containers.
  • Exercise 2-3 times per week.  I’m hoping it gets easier this month as the weather should be warming up!

Okay, wow, that list is getting long.  I’m going to stop there.  Wish me luck!


At the end of December, I started seriously looking for a new solution to share photos with family and friends.  Until that point I had been using a Shutterfly share site.  I upload my photos after working on them in Lightroom (see later in this post for a summary of my photo workflow, currently), where (among other things) I have added captions to their metadata.  Unfortunately, Shutterfly strips all metadata when photos are uploaded to their site.  That means I had to *manually* re-enter my captions on the Shutterfly site (copy-and-paste) for sharing with my family and friends.  I kept thinking, “There has to be a better way!”

The thing I like about the Shutterfly sites is you can set it up so that it is only available to those with whom I share the URL.  It isn’t searchable by engines like Google Image Search (as far as I know), so I wasn’t too worried about a random person finding a photo of my little girl and using it without my knowledge.  I didn’t password-protect the sites because I often posted the link on Facebook (my FB account is pretty private, but I still don’t want FB to have my actual photos!), and I’m wasn’t sure which of my friends actually followed the link to look at my albums.

Since I listen to the Digi Show podcast quite a bit (see more about my podcast-listening habits HERE), I started learning more about Flickr and how it works.  Katie, one of the co-hosts for the show, is basically my Flickr hero!  Based on what I heard from her, I decided that Flickr was going to be the way I went.

The three most exciting things to me about using Flickr were that 1) the free account gives you 1 terabyte(!) of storage space, 2) Flickr stores your full-resolution images and they are available for full-res download, and 3) when you upload to Flickr, it automatically imports your metadata–including captions.  On top of all of that, you have quite a bit of control over your privacy settings– right down to the individual photos.  I’m pretty happy with how things are working out for me so far.  I create sets (albums) each month with our favorite photos to share.  The majority of these photos are available to both “family” and “friends” to view (I am able to manually approve contacts within Flickr, and designate them friends and/or family, as the case may be), and a few of the photos I’ve restricted further to just “family” viewing.

The disadvantage of using Flickr is that no longer can my Facebook friends casually view photos.  They have to make an active effort to request me as a contact (“follow me”) on Flickr.  I’ve also had some friends have trouble finding me on Flickr to request to follow– and I’m not sure whether this is user error (on both ends??) or some other issue.  However, our families have all been able to view the photos since I set up the new sharing system, and that’s my main intended audience.

Back to the positives: in addition to using my account to share our photo highlights each month, I decided to make use of that lovely whole terabyte of storage and use Flickr as an additional layer of (external) backup for my photos.  You might remember that in January and February, I backed up my entire collection of digital photographs (every. single. one.) to Flickr.  It feels really good to have an offsite backup for my images.

So here’s a summary of my photo workflow these days:

  • as often as possible: transfer photo files from my memory cards (or from my phone, using Dropbox) to my laptop’s hard drive
  • as often as possible: delete photos I know I will never use or want, and rename the remaining files with YYYY_MM_DD_shortcaption filenames.  I only do the renaming for photos from my camera, since they are just numbered, and phone photos have the date as their filename already.  No need to make even more extra work for myself!
  • as often as possible: import photos into Lightroom and add captions to metadata.  Add tags, if applicable (I don’t do a lot of tagging, but I try to keep up with a short list)
  • with each Lightroom import: select and mark (via color label) family highlight photos.  Only these photos are edited in the Develop module (in addition, I edit photos that I will use on my blog, and occasionally a few others, but not often).  These family highlight photos are automatically pulled into smart collections for each month
  • at the end of each month: export family highlight photos to a temporary folder on my computer.  Upload these (edited) photos to Flickr (as well as another external backup drive), applying “famly” and/or “friends” settings as they are uploaded.  Delete the temporary folder from my computer once the uploads are complete.
  • at the end of each month: upload my entire month’s photos (unedited) to Flickr into a private (only viewable by me) set.

Recently, my 2-year-old daughter has been excited about watching paper crafting videos with me while we eat lunch on weekdays.  It’s so fun to hear her interact with what she’s seeing:  “Look, mommy!  She’s coloring!”  “She’s using stickers!” and telling me about the shapes and colors she sees the crafters using.  My daughter especially enjoys Jennifer McGuire’s stamping videos, I think because she uses such vibrant colors.  I see Jennifer using such cool techniques and itch to try them!

The other day, I needed some crafting time.  During nap time, I shut myself into my craft room and decided to play with some stamps.  I decided to start simply, and use a stamp set from Wplus9 (Funky Flowers) that is made so that you can “build-your-own” images.  I got out my blue and green inks and just played around a bit.  The result was this card to give to a friend at her baby shower!


I stamped a little flower inside the card, too!


Watching those videos has made me a little braver about trying new stamping techniques, and this was a start.  It’s a simple card, but it makes me happy!



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